Regulators and Utility Managers on Innovation in the Municipal Wastewater Sector

March 2021

Given the many risks and the different incentives and roles of utilities and regulators in the regulation process, a common assumption is that the two groups are generally at odds with one another when it comes to their views on regulation and innovation.

New research from our team shows that, on the contrary, utilities and regulators generally agree about the ways in which regulation acts as a barrier to innovation in the wastewater sector, and how innovation could be encouraged.

For example, utility managers and regulators agree on the importance of improving communication and relationships, on addressing funding limitations, and support solutions such as research, pilot project funding, and capacity-building. Perhaps most importantly, regulators and utility managers agree that reducing stringency of regulations is not a productive way to encourage innovation.

These results matter because the successful adoption of new technologies requires buy-in from both regulators and utilities. The assumption of conflict, and the attendant expectation of differences and resistance to change, can itself hinder collaboration and creativity, particularly given the high-stakes nature of large capital investment. This new research emphasizes the potential for regulators and utilities to work together to identify and implement innovative solutions to wastewater treatment.


Access the research article:

Regulators and utility managers agree about barriers and opportunities for innovation in the municipal wastewater sector

Read the Legal Planet blog post:

Do regulators and utility managers have irreconcilable differences or mutual goals?

For more information

Contact Mike Kiparsky, Director of the Wheeler Water Institute.